Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Heat Pump Is Blowing Cold Air!

The Heat Pump Is Blowing Cold Air!!

Three weeks ago Lynn and I did a blog on “Staying Warm”. We ended that blog by saying that Mother Nature had been very good to Bulgaria so far this winter because it had been unseasonably warm. We never should have said that! Within a couple days of posting the blog, all of Bulgaria settled into one of the worst cold spells in a decade. But – like with so many other things here – we learned several new things.
First – we have a new Climatique (a heat pump). Most of the new (and upgraded) apartments have these. They are great. They take the heat from the outside, amplify it, and blow it into your home. In the summer, they reverse the process, and they are air conditioners. However, if the outside air is very very cold (down around 0) and dry, then they can freeze up, or just not work correctly. Every so often ours would make “grinding sounds”, and would blow cool/cold air. Once we even saw it blowing a white mist into the room. Thankfully this did not happen often.
Second – Small 20 dollar space heaters are awesome! Lynn bought one of these in December. It was on sale, and seemed like a good idea. Actually – it was a great idea! When the big system was blowing cold air, we carried this little “turbo heater” into the room, and it warmed things up. We also used it in our bed room (which does not have heat) to keep it warmer during the night.
Third – Bathrooms in Bulgaria are NOT heated. Most bathrooms are in the center of the building, and have a water tank heater in the room. Since the bathroom doubles as a shower stall, the idea is to just take a shower to heat up the room. But if you want to use the bathroom for other things early in the morning, or in the middle of the night; it can be awfully cold. I also found out that many folks in Bulgaria just don’t clean up much in very cold weather.
Fourth – those big communist marble buildings that do not have any central air conditioning in the summer don’t have any heat in the winter. There is one big university cafeteria that we visit often. There is no heat in the building. Everyone eats with their coats on! Since the food gets cold pretty quick, we only went there once this month.
Last – if you spend most of the day with your shoulders “crunched” up around your ears, your shoulder muscles tend to get pretty sore by the end of the day. Thankfully, we figured that out quickly, and stopped doing it.
All of these things were really very minor. We know there are many folks home in the US who have been colder than we were this month. We were really in very good shape. We were warm most of the time with very little change to our routines and life. However, we know that was not the case for many other volunteers. We talked to one volunteer who is living in the mountains south of us, and his water pipes had frozen five days before. He had no water, and was not sure how to fix them. Others were living in sleeping bags much of the time. If you want to get a real sense of what life is like for most volunteers here during the winter check out this blog entry.
Lynn was seeing many of the people in the mahala getting bags of coal from horse-drawn carts that constantly went around the streets. I was working in a new site with a large wooded area across the street. There were people over there all the time looking for dead pieces of wood they could take out.
In the last two days, the weather has gotten more normal, and the ice is melting. And the heat pump is working correctly again! We hope the real cold is done for the winter, but this time, I don’t think we will say that. February is still winter – even in Bulgaria!


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